I'm writing from Copenhagen where I just played with guitarist Peter Tinning and bassist Þorgrímur Jónsson on the jazz festival. We are playing a couple of more concerts tomorrow and then off to Aarhus, where I've never been. I had a blast today, but later on the phone someone reminded me of my days with Ant Man Bee back in Norfolk, Virginia. They said something like "it's a lot different from Ant Man Bee" and I thought, yes it is.
But is it, really? It got me thinking about the essence of what it is that I do. There are many ways to look at this, but when I perform I'm basically communicating in some way with an audience. If it goes well, there is a connection, just like when a stand-up comic makes people laugh.
And then we went to see our friend Richard Andersson play with a brilliant quartet featuring the German clarinetist Rudi Mahall. This guy had all the musicians in the house laughing. He's a great musician but he's constantly making what I call musical jokes, and this is one of the ways he connected with us.
Somehow watching Mahall and thinking about Ant Man Bee the two things intersected in my brain. I realized how fortunate I was to be in that band at that time. Imagine I'm 16 years old and suddenly I'm playing to packed clubs of college kids who can't seem to get enough of our music. It was a thrill. I can remember driving home after those shows and feeling a sense of elation (without pharmaceuticals mind you). It was a feeling that I had shared an experience with my band-mates and the audience that was unique, and that I had been a part of the circuitry of that connection. It was hard to fall asleep afterwards. Kind of like a musical double-espresso.
Now that I play mostly jazz, and the college kids are less prone to stage-diving at my shows, I feel the same way. Of course there are off nights… or mediocre nights, as there were with Ant Man Bee or with any performer, but that feeling of connection happens more often than not. For that I am truly grateful.